Standing together for a stronger America.
Remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy Graduation, April 14, 2004.
It is a pleasure to be here this evening, to celebrate with you as you complete this level of professional military education. I am honored to be asked to come and speak at this great Academy, and as I look out there tonight, I am also keenly aware that I am significantly outnumbered here--with about 15 Coast Guardsmen to each Airman.
What I'd like to focus on tonight though is not the numbers, but the similarities between our services and the importance of capitalizing on each other's strengths to meet the demands in today's dynamic security environment.
Before I do that, let me talk for just a moment about what I see as one of the great strengths of your service--the United States Coast Guard.
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to a certain extent, are always preparing for war--in the absence of war we plan and we train, ultimately to prosecute any future wars as quickly and decisively as possible.
In contrast, the Coast Guard as a service is out there on the front lines every day--standing watch over America, her people, and her interests--at home and abroad, during war and during peace.
In addition, your reputation as a critical asset to our nation is solid--Coast Guard is synonymous with professionalism, duty, and courage in the minds of Americans. I commend each of you for the manner in which you carry out your crucial mission.
Now, having pointed out that difference let me talk about the vast similarities I see in our services.
The first, and most basic is the one that binds us together and gives us purpose - the fact that each of us freely chooses a life of service to our nation.
Our reasons for serving may differ, our length of service may vary--but each of us now stand together in this snapshot in time to live the oath we took--to protect our nation against all enemies - foreign and domestic.
It is a historic and challenging time for us all; history books will define this generation by 9/11 and how we responded to it.
Like Pearl Harbor was for our veterans, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy was for our parents, we will remember where we were and what we doing when we first heard the news of the towers falling, the Pentagon burning, and the airplane plummeting into the Pennsylvania field.
For you in the Coast Guard, the ensuing security needs added yet another facet to your already demanding mission of protecting seaports, rescuing those in need, intercepting drugs and protecting the environment. Today, you are an integral part of the Department of Homeland Security and protecting our nation from terrorists right here at home. Homeland Security was not even an organization two years ago but today, it is a household name.
For our Air Force, the emerging threats to our nation built on an already high deployment tempo that really began in 1990 with Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
For the first 13 years of my career, we were fighting the Cold War, and were essentially an in-garrison Air Force. The longest TDY I went on during that time was three weeks to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Today, we have become an expeditionary Air Force. I spoke with an E-6 recently who had been on 13 extended deployments in his 13-year career. We are 40 percent smaller than we were 15 years ago, but deployed four times more. Currently we have 29.000 Airmen deployed, 20,000 of them in Southwest Asia.
Our focus now is ensuring our authorizations, manning, training, education, family support, and development of our people focuses on the capabilities we need to deploy forward and project air and space power.
I see great similarity in the strength and vision of both of our service's to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of our nation throughout your 200-plus-year history and our significantly shorter (by about 150 years), but certainly proud Air Force history.
That ability to reshape, realign, and refocus while keeping the traditions, customs and values of our service is what keeps us viable and efficient in the face of great challenge and change.
Part of that reshaping and refocus is the reality that we need to do better at working jointly. Operation Iraqi Freedom has been touted as the greatest example of joint operations, but it also pointed out how far we have to go to integrate our operations for future battles.
Today and in the coming months, 2,000 Airmen will deploy to Iraq to fill joint requirements. They will drive convoys, provide security, deliver supplies and perform a host of other jobs side-by-side with Soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
Today's world demands that we integrate our operations for peak efficiency, and at the heart of that, bring our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Airmen and allies together for training and education. That is what brings us here today--in an environment where we come together to learn from and about each other.
The value of joint education like we're doing here and in other service Academies is part of a larger journey to combine our talents for the good of the nation. What our Airmen learn about the Coast Guard here is just as important as the curriculum that is formally taught. Each of you leave a lasting impression on each other, and for the Airmen who have spent this time with you, that experience is now a part of them. They will infuse that knowledge back into the Air Force, and you will infuse the knowledge you've learned from them back into the Coast Guard.
Joint education gives us a deeper appreciation for another's service, and makes us realize the incredible similarities.
Here in the classrooms we are exposed to each other's heritage, culture, organization and language in a safe and educational environment. Relationships forged in classrooms form the basis of working relationships on the flightline, in the ports, in the AOR and in joint assignments where the stakes are higher and a degree of familiarity saves manhours, resources and valuable time. The experience we gain from each other makes us better Coast Guardsmen, better Airmen, and more capable leaders.
That brings me to the last and probably most important similarity I want to highlight: each of us in this room is charged with the awesome responsibility of leading people. We are entrusted with the care of the men and women that will protect America's tomorrows.
These young Airmen and Coast Guardsmen need leaders who are focused on them and their development. They need leaders who can see the bigger picture, without losing sight of those under their care.
The tenants of leadership and communication that this school reinforced are not meant to remain as just textbook learning. It is now up to you to take those tools to your units, your workcenters, and your deployments, and put them to practical use. Knowledge is great to have, but it's meant to be used to develop Airmen and Coast Guardsmen, and ultimately, to build an even better force for America.
It is up to you to build the teams, improve the organization, and the camaraderie in your unit that will take you into future missions, deployments, and battles, and allow you to win ... together and decisively.
There is no doubt that the future will hold many new challenges for us as individuals, as services, and collectively as the nation's defenders. I firmly believe that we will meet those leadership challenges because of people like you.
As American Coast Guardsmen and Airmen who voluntarily serve this nation, you are cut from the same unwavering cloth as those who have served before us protecting our homeland or deployed around the world through World War I and II, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, and every conflict in between.
Throughout your rich and vast history, the Coast Guard has consistently been on guard, protecting American interests and her citizens. The enemy is different, the battlefield less defined, but the courage and commitment carried by the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsman and Airmen are just as strong as those who served in years past.
That courage and commitment is displayed everyday by military men and women like Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. Jason died in a firefight on Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan.
He was a pararescuemen, and one of three Air Force guys on an Army helicopter going in to locate Navy SEALs. His helicopter was shot down, and Airman Cunningham and his surviving crew were surrounded by enemy fire. Jason continued to pull out his wounded comrades and drag them away from the helicopter, until he received a fatal wound himself.
Army Rangers who were there with him say that even as he was dying, he instructed them on what to do for the others so they wouldn't the too. To Jason, those sailors they were trying to rescue and those soldiers on board that helicopter were his comrades, and he was willing to lay down his life to try to save them.
In that same vein, by continuing to work together and to leverage the strengths of each of our services, we will continue to build a safer America for the future, and a world where fewer brave souls like Jason Cunningham will have to lay down their lives in battle.
Thank you again for allowing me to be with you tonight, and God bless you as you continue to serve our great nation.
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|Title Annotation:||CMSAF Gerald R. Murray|
|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||Apr 14, 2004|
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